Resume (May in D.C.)

Meridian Hill Park in winter

Call it a sign of the scattered and rushed times we live in. There is an entire blog devoted solely to documenting the failures and ensuing apologies of other bloggers — those who have returned to their keyboard, hat in hand to their readers, following a long absence. It’s titled, fittingly, Sorry I Haven’t PostedIt’s been since January since I tapped out anything here on Road Notes, and so I suppose I could count myself among these bloggers’ ranks. But at this point the apology is probably unnecessary. Judging by the readership stats, it would likely just echo out into the emptiness of cyberspace.

Things have been warming up here in the District; as I wrote in my last post, however, the weather never really cooled after the glow of autumn. Still, it’s been nice to have consistently summer-like weather lately. People don shorts and flip-flops, the sidewalk cafes are set out, and the pace of day-to-day life somehow seems slower — if only just because the hours of daylight are longer.

Today I took a jog (my first in too long) up to Meridian Hill Park. It’s what I would call D.C.’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with the major caveat that it is smaller and more humble by several orders of magnitude. But at least it is my central beacon in this city. During the winter, skateboarders would ride the curves of its empty fountain, and on morning runs the fingers of bare trees would seem to reach above the dawn horizon, unrivaled by the stories of surrounding buildings, simply because of the hill’s vantage point.

Now the trees have become lush again: draped in greenery, they form a canopy enclosing a space that feels worlds away from all that “Washington” has come to mean to the rest of the United States, or the rest of the world. There was a line of men sitting on a bench rapping on bongo drums, assisted by spurts of melody from a saxophonist, who stood on one end. Young men and women without shoes on — on either side of the park — tried their best to balance along tight-ropes they had set up between trees. And a few souls laid out on the grass in solitude, accompanied only by the pages of the paperbacks they held.

I think of spring as the time when I first discovered D.C. Though J and I actually moved here in January of last year, during a comparatively bitter winter, it wasn’t until the leaves came out that I began taking runs through the neighborhoods, finding the surprising quiet between the rows of brick townhomes. In the fall of 2010 I wrote about finding a halcyon moment during a stroll through a small town in rural Wisconsin, where my wife is from. In D.C., I have found the joy in taking runs around town. I never wear headphones, so that I can hear the sparse signs of nature (but mostly the sirens), and I often am spurred to break off of the route I have drawn.

As could be said of many capitals, in the District, there are two cities: the one of Capitol Hill, the monuments, the White House, and K Street; and the one of low-slung neighborhoods, where folks of all types mingle, whether they are building careers, building families, both, or just passing on through. And when I run, I transverse these worlds, throttling my speed up and down commensurate with how familiar or unfamiliar the neighborhood is — and how winded I am.

As I settle into spring again, I resume this curiosity. The city (both of them) seems to open up and I let my legs carry me. And I tell myself that I’ll do a better job of remembering what I see, so that I can bring it back, and write it down here.

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